Magnolias

May 14, 2014

Magnolias are trees or shrubs with astonishing goblet or star-shaped flowers that are icons of spring and summer in the South. Magnolias produce showy fragrant flowers that are white, pink, red, purple or yellow. Magnolia trees are diverse in leaf shape and plant form, and they include both evergreen and deciduous sorts.

Magnolia is an ancient genus appearing even before the bees did- fossilised specimens of Magnolia have been found dating 20 million years ago. The plant is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. They aren’t usually munched by deer.

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Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plants in the family Magnoliaceae. Magnolia species are found in the east and southeast Asia, in eastern North America, Central America, the West Indies and some species grow in South America.

Evergreen magnolias have become synonymous with the Magnolia grandiflora, the classic magnolia with large glossy leaves and huge fragrant white blooms. Reaching 90 ft in height, it is a large striking evergreen tree with large dark green leaves. It is widely cultivated around the world and has been bred and marketed commercially by over a hundred of cultivars. It is native to the Southern United States from Virginia south to central Florida. Leaves of evergreen magnolias drop 365 days a year and since the tree can grow as wide as 40 ft. it takes up a lot of garden space.

Deciduous magnolias include the popular saucer magnolia. These magnolia trees are hybrids derived from crossing M. denudata with M. liliiflora. They are often called tulip trees because of the shape and the bright color of their flowers.

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Deciduous magnolias with star flowers include the Kobus magnolia, star magnolia and loebner magnolia. They are all adaptable plants and heat-tolerant. The star magnolia is native to Japan and bears large snowy white or pink flowers in the spring. It blooms in early spring bearing pleasantly fragrant white flowers.  The Loener Magnolia is a hybrid plant which is a cross between the Kobus and Star magnolia.

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Other magnolias include a group of large-leafed magnolias grown as shade trees including the cucumber tree, yellow cucumber tree, raser magnolia, Ashe magnolia,  bigleaf magnolia and umbrella magnolia.

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Then there’s the Oyama magnolia (M. sieboldii) which is a category on its own. It is native to western China, Japan and Korea. It is named after Philipp Franz von Siebold. The Oyama magnolia is grown as an ornamental tree in gardens and is the national flower of North Korea.

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